To stop the defamation of the Jewish people... to secure justice and fair treatment to all
Anti-Defamation League ABOUT ADL FIND YOUR 

Sign Up For One Of Our Newsletters


The Army of Ansar al-Sunna

Recent Activities
Timeline of Terrorist Attacks in Iraq 2005


Since 2003, Jaish Ansar al-Sunna (Arabic for "Army of the Followers of the Teachings") has carried out some of the most lethal terrorist attacks in Iraq, including many suicide bombings, in an effort to achieve its ultimate goal of establishing a fundamentalist Islamic government in the county. Among the deadliest attacks claimed by Ansar al-Sunna is a bombing in Erbil that killed 109 people in February 2004, and a suicide bombing against a U.S. military base near Mosul that killed 22 people, including 14 U.S. soldiers, in December 2004. The group, described by U.S. officials as the "principal organized terrorist adversary in Iraq," follows an extreme Islamic ideology known as Salafism and has attracted followers within Iraq as well as supporters worldwide.


Ansar al-Sunna grew out of Ansar al-Islam, a militant Kurdish Islamic group founded by Kurdish cleric Mullah Krekar in 2001 to establish an Islamic government in Iraq. According to U.S. and Iraqi intelligence officials, a schism between members of Ansar al-Islam, coupled with the deaths of many of its leaders following the U.S. invasion of Iraq, led to the formation of the Ansar al-Sunna in September 2003. Despite these setbacks, Ansar al-Islam maintains a presence in Western Europe.

In a statement announcing its formation, posted on the Internet in September 2003, Ansar al-Sunna claimed to be made up of former Ansar al-Islam members, foreign fighters linked to Osama Bin Laden and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, and militant Sunni Iraqis. By widening its appeal to non-Kurdish militants and adopting a more pan-Islamic platform, Ansar al-Sunna has encouraged non-Kurdish Muslims to join its ranks. For example, operatives of Moroccan and Lebanese descent have been arrested in Italy and Sweden, and several of the group's leaders are reportedly Jordanian.

Ansar al-Sunna follows an extreme Islamic ideology known as Salafism, which commands Muslims to return to the form of Islam practiced in the time of Mohammed, and seeks to establish a fundamentally Islamic government in Iraq. Under such a government, strict, Taliban-like rules - such as the barring of women from education and the prohibition of drinking alcohol under pain of death - would exist as they did in areas controlled by Ansar al-Islam prior to the U.S. invasion in 2003. This ideology, along with the group's growing reputation as an effective and powerful insurgent group, has attracted recruits from both Iraq and the greater Middle East.

Recent Activities

In 2005, Ansar al-Sunna has conducted numerous terrorist attacks in northern Iraq, killing hundreds of people. Operatives frequently target the fledgling Iraqi police and National Guard units, often striking heavily guarded police stations and U.S. military compounds. Between April and June, the group primarily targeted Iraqi police forces and ambushed civilians and security contractors. While many of these attacks were shootings, the organization also conducted numerous suicide bombings.

According to members of the organization, Ansar al-Sunna is responsible for most of the terrorist attacks on the primary Kurdish political parties, who it views as being proxies of the U.S. occupation, and will continue to attack them in the near future. Ansar al-Sunna has also kidnapped and killed a number of hostages, including an Iraqi police general. This level of activity coincides with the acknowledgment by U.S. military and intelligence officials that the insurgency in Iraq continues to be a serious threat to stability in the country. Ansar al-Sunna has also been able to continue its attacks despite the capture of some of its top leaders, including Mullah Mahdi, by U.S. forces.

U.S. intelligence officials indicate that Ansar al-Sunna activities are confined to the Sunni-dominated areas around the city of Mosul in northern Iraq. That the movement has been unable to spread to other regions of the nation, which are mostly Shiite, is indicative of the sectarian makeup of Iraq. While Ansar al-Sunna has widened itself to include non-Kurdish members, it continues to remain a firmly Sunni group. This is also evident in its links with the rabid anti-Shia ideology of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.


Like many other terrorist groups, Ansar al-Sunna mainly operates in a cell structure. Although guided by central leadership, local cells are relatively autonomous and plan their own attacks. These cells vary in size and capability, and their pseudo-independent nature makes them both more flexible and more difficult for coalition and Iraqi forces to apprehend.

Ansar al-Sunna claims to be led by its "emir," or prince, Abu Abdullah al-Hassan Ibn Mahmoud. The Kurdish Democratic Party maintains that Abu Abdullah, as he is known, is of Jordanian descent and a close associate of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Ansar al-Sunna videos on the Internet often begin with statements by Abu Abdullah outlining the goals of the group. Ansar al-Sunna does not generally publicize the names of its leaders, but investigators believe that Abu Abdullah has two deputies: Hemin Bani Shari and Umar Bazynai. The Ansar al-Sunna leadership also includes a military committee, which issues communiqués taking credit for attacks.

Ansar al-Sunna also maintains strong links with Al Qaeda and its leader in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who joined Ansar al-Sunna after fleeing Afghanistan in 2001. The full extent of their links is unclear; however, captured members of Ansar al-Sunna have reportedly described Zarqawi as having a leadership role in the group (some Ansar al-Sunna followers have also reportedly described a rift between their leaders and Zarqawi).

It is likely that Ansar al-Sunna receives support from Ansar al-Islam operatives overseas. European intelligence officials have reported a strong Ansar al-Islam presence in Western Europe, where the group conducts a well-organized funding and recruiting campaign to benefit its operatives in Iraq. Through armed robbery, smuggling and other means, Ansar al-Islam has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars in support of its fighters in Iraq, presumably members of Ansar al-Sunna. The organization has also tapped into "pre-existing" terror networks on the continent that have allowed it to quickly establish a major presence in Europe. Ansar al-Islam followers have been under surveillance and arrested in Denmark and Sweden, but the group seems to be most active in Germany, where there is a large Kurdish minority. Ansar al-Islam has also seized on the increased radicalization of Muslim youth in Europe to recruit volunteers to conduct attacks and suicide bombings in Iraq.

Timeline of Terrorist Attacks in Iraq

Responsibility for the following list of attacks, beginning in April 2005, has either been claimed by Ansar al-Sunna or attributed to it by authorities.

  • June 28: Assassinated Kamal Zebari, a Kurdish security officer.

  • June 25: Killed three Marines and wounded 12 others in a suicide bombing on U.S. military convoy in Fallujah. Two Iraqi civilians were killed and two others hurt in the attack.

  • June 23: Killed 17 and wounded 68 in four suicide bombings in Shi'ite neighborhoods in Baghdad.

  • June 20: Killed 15 and wounded over 125 in a suicide bombing in Erbil.

  • June 16: Assassinated Salem Mahmoud al-Haj Ali, a senior Iraqi judge in Mosul.

  • June 14: Killed 22 and wounded over 85 in a suicide attack in Kirkuk.

  • June 8: Destroyed an American military Humvee.

  • June 2: Killed 12 and wounded 37 in a car bomb attempt to assassinate Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Rowsch Nouri Shaways.

  • June 1: Killed 10, including three police commandos, in a raid in Baghdad.

  • June: Killed seven in an attack on a convoy near Ramadi.

  • May 30: Killed at least two Iraqi policemen in a suicide car bombing on an American convoy near Tuz Khurmatu.

  • May 29: Kidnapped and executed Iraqi police general Ahmad Saleh al-Baranzanchi.

  • May 23: Killed five and wounded 19 in a suicide car bombing on the convoy of an official from the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan political party.

  • May 19: Fired a mortar barrage at U.S. military barracks in Heit.

  • May 18: Fired a mortar barrage at U.S. military barracks in Heit.

  • May 18: Wounded 18 in a suicide car bombing in Baquba.

  • May 17: Kidnapped and killed two Iraqis working for a subcontractor of Halliburton.

  • May 13: Killed three and injured five in a suicide bombing on a convoy in Baquba.

  • May 13: Bombed a U.S. military Humvee in Heit.

  • May 12: Killed two and wounded four in two bombings in Kirkuk.

  • May 11: Killed 33 Shiite laborers and wounded over 70 in a suicide bombing in Tikrit.

  • May 10: At least three injured in a car bomb attack in central Baghdad.

  • May 8: Killed 16 in an ambush on a convoy of security contractors. During the ambush, the group kidnapped Akihiko Saito, a 44-year-old Japanese security contractor, and later executed him.

  • May 4: Killed up to 60 people and wounded over 150 in a suicide bombing at the Kurdistan Democratic Party office in Erbil.

  • May 3: Killed at least one Iraqi policeman in a shooting near Samarra.

  • May: Ambushed a civilian convoy in Iraq. Four people were killed.

  • May: Kidnapped and executed three truck drivers; one from Jordan and two from Iraq.

  • April 27: Fired rockets at Iraqi National Guard training center.

  • April 14: Killed four and wounded three in a mortar and gunfire attack on a police station in Kirkuk.

  • April 14: Killed five and wounded one in a shooting attack on a police station south of Kirkuk.

  • April 13: Killed 12 Iraqi police officers in a joint bombing with Al Qaeda in Iraq of a pipeline in Kirkuk.

  • April 11: Killed two Iraqi policemen in a shooting attack in Kirkuk.

  • April 6: Killed Iraqi policeman in a shooting.

  • April: Kidnapped and executed six Sudanese contractors.

  • April: Kidnapped and executed three Jordanian contractors.

  • April: Kidnapped and executed Hussein Taha Qassim.


Terrorist Groups Use Distinct Symbols To Convey Their Ideology And Goals.

Home | Search | About ADL | Donate | Contact ADL | Privacy Policy |
| Update Your E-mail Preferences |

Help support our work by sending your tax deductible gift to:
ADL, 605 Third Ave., New York, NY 10158, Attn: Development.

To speak to an ADL professional about giving opportunities
Please call 866-FUND-ADL or 866-386-3235
We thank you for your support

© 2013 Anti-Defamation League. All rights reserved. The Anti-Defamation League is a not-for-profit organization recognized as tax-exempt under Internal Revenue Code section 501(c)(3).